Archive for censorship

Police Blotter Bob and the Banning of Irshad Manji’s “Allah, Liberty & Love” in Malaysia

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by loonwatch

by Haddock

Firstly, I want to point out that I do not support the Malaysian government’s decision to ban the Malay translation of Irshad Manji’s latest book, considering I believe in near-absolute freedom of speech; and, while Manji is a sell-out and useful tool who routinely belittles and degrades Muslims for profit, she should have the right to speak her mind without censorship.

The drone-like commenters at JihadWatch have expressed nothing short of glee at the latest news that the Malaysian translation of Irshad “Muslims helped make the Holocaust happen” Manji’s most recent book, Allah, Liberty & Love was banned in Malaysia for containing words that “insulted Islam.” This supposedly “proves” how backward all 1.5 billion Mooslims are! After some political parties and organizations complained about Manji’s appearance in the country, the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) decided to review the book to find out if there was any “offensive” content. They declared that some of the material “insulted Islam”, and was subsequently banned by the Home Ministry. The Malaysian Insider quotes the Ministry,

“This is because the book which is believed to have elements that can deviate Muslims from their faith, Islamic teachings and elements which insulted Islam and has received numerous complaints,” he said in a statement here.”

And,

“The ministry had received a report from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) and based on its findings, the contents had elements that can confuse the public and contained words that insults Islam.”

The IDD felt the need to point out that they can only advise the Ministry with their interpretation of Islamic values, but cannot enact laws themselves. This doesn’t take away the fact that censorship was at play here, but it provides a nuance that Islamophobes typically ignore; most Muslims don’t believe in a theocracy. This piece to the puzzle was unsurprisingly missing from Jihad Watch’s “report.”

Police blotter Bob, barely able to contain his joy at having another opportunity to bash Muslims, writes;

“Wait a minute. Isn’t Islam supposed to be completely compatible with moderation, democracy, and so on? Apparently the allegedly mild, modern and moderate Muslims of Malaysia didn’t get the memo. Or the fact that crowds of Malaysian Muslims haven’t openly called for her death (yet) should be considered ‘moderation’.”

Yet he conveniently leaves out the fact that the publisher of the translation, ZI Publications, is taking “legal action” against the government while using their own interpretation of the Malaysian Constitution and Islam to do so. Apparently they feel that “free inquiry” is “something which Islam itself cherishes.” But what do they know about their own religion?! They’re doing something that makes Islam look good, so naturally they must be practicing “taqiyya”, or simply don’t understand how evil their religion so obviously is.

“The English version of Irshad Manji’s book, Allah, Liberty & Love, has been published since June 2011 and there has been no issue taken with the book… until we published a Malay translation of the book (Allah, Kebebasan & Cinta),” said Ezra Zaid, director and owner of ZI.” (Emphasis added)

And,

Either way, we published this book in the spirit of free inquiry – incidentally, something which Islam itself cherishes – and acting strictly in accordance with our right to free speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 10 (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution,…” (Emphasis added)

But we all know the Islamophobic modus operandi. When Muslims ban or censor a book, they’re showing their true colors, and this proves that Islam is demonic; but when Muslims say Islam does not promote the banning of books, they’re practicing “taqiyya”, so they can’t be trusted. (Ironically, you will never hear Islamophobes condemn Geert Wilders for wanting to ban the Qur’an, or any concern on their behalf when a number of books have been banned in the USA). This is why there is overwhelming silence over at Jihad Watch about this element to the story. “What?! Muslims standing up for free-speech while still practicing their religion?! This is impossible! The only Muslims who can stand up for freedom and democracy are those who oppose their own religion and sell out their co-religionists in the name of profit!”

This is why the more stealthy Islamophobes of the world love people like Irshad Manji. She says everything that they want to say, but can’t without (rightly) being called a bigot. But since she is a self- professed Muslim, all they need to do is quote her words and say, “this comes from a Muslim! One of your own people says this about you, so I can’t be a bigot just by quoting her words!”

This is one of the oldest tactics in the book. This same line was said by the more “diplomatic” American anti-Catholics of the 19th century and the anti-Semites of the 20th century; and now it is said by the Islamophobes. And since this dance takes two to tango, each era saw its share of self-declared turncoats, appeasers and traitors of their identities. But just like most of America’s famous anti-Catholics and anti-Semites have been forgotten by the public, so are its team players who played the role of the “native informant.”

Does anybody remember Benjamin Freedman? He was a self-declared ex-Jew turned anti-Semite conspiracy theorist who claimed to have been one of the most influential proponents of “Zionism” in the United States. He did not limit himself to critiques of Zionism but rather engaged in classic “Jews run the world hate-mongering,” i.e. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion shtick.

He was very popular among the anti-communist “Patriot” groups in the 1940s- 50’s because many of these people were also anti-Semitic. So to have a guy who claimed to be an ethnic Jew saying all of these bad things about his “own people” was a great thing for them since it gave their views a certain type of credibility that they normally wouldn’t have had as non-Jews. Yet today, Mr. Freedman is hardly remembered except among right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis who post some of his speeches on YouTube.

It is likely that the same fate as Freedman’s diminished remembrance awaits Irshad Manji, Walid Shoebat, Brigitte Gabriel, Nonie Darwish, Kamal Saleem, Ibn Warraq, and a whole list of other Muslim “native informants,” “fake ex-Muslims” and “fake ex-terrorists.”

Draw Muhammad Day: Collectively Punishing Muslim Americans

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2010 by loonwatch
Shahed Amanullah

By Shahed Amanullah

In the wake of the self-censorship controversy surrounding South Park‘s portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad, artists intent on defending freedom of speech have responded by organizing an event they call Draw Muhammad Day, to take place on May 20. The goal, according to the website hosting the endeavor, is to defend free speech by showing Muslims that artists “don’t back down” when threatened.

But the fact is that millions of Muslim-Americans — many of whom have known about South Parkcaricatures of Muhammad for years — behaved exactly the way free speech advocates wanted them to: by remaining silent or expressing their feelings peacefully. The handful of thugs at a New York-based site called Revolution Muslim — who, by the way, are unwelcome in every New York mosque for their extremist rantings — were the only exceptions. And now these Muslim-Americans are being subject to mass insult as thanks for their respect of South Park‘s free speech rights.

Let’s think for a moment about what is motivating the people behind Draw Muhammad Day. Is it revulsion at religiously motivated death threats? I don’t think so. Just this week, Congressman Bart Stupak wrote that he had received so many death threats (that’s actual phoned-in threats, not just one passive-aggressive blog post) that he was advised to beef up his security. It’s safe to assume that most of those death threats were fueled by religious fervor, but since the religion in question isn’t Islam, it gets a pass.

Maybe it is to show all Muslims that attacks on free speech won’t be tolerated. But the fact is that over the course of 10 years, millions of Muslims respected the free speech of South Park and didn’t even lodge a polite complaint with Comedy Central. What exactly are we being punished for? Our inability to enforce a zero-tolerance policy and prevent a blogger from hitting the Enter key?

If free speech advocates want to target someone, why not target Comedy Central, who exhibited self-censorship in the face of a mere web post? Or better yet, why not target the Revolution Muslim group, who issued the warnings that brought this whole crisis to bear? (I know plenty of Muslims who would join in this effort.)

In other words, target the people responsible for sullying free speech, not those who respected it.

Imagine for a moment if an African-American blogger complained about an unfair stereotype in a cartoon in the same crass manner as the Revolution Islam folks. Would free speech advocates respond by hosting a contest to draw as many vile stereotypes of blacks as they could? I can’t imagine that anyone would even propose such an idea. So why, then, are millions of Muslim-Americans who said nothing about South Park in the past decade being subject to this mass insult? To prove a point? What point would that be?

To be clear, the folks behind Draw Muhammad Day have every right to organize and participate in such an endeavor without threat of violence or coercion from Muslims (as I have written previously in an op-ed published all over the Muslim world).

But the participants shouldn’t claim any sort of moral high ground in doing so. In fact, unless they are willing to push the same limits of free speech with respect to other minorities, they are nothing but hypocrites that apply collective punishment to a vast majority that did them no harm and wished no ill on South Park, and are letting their thinly-veiled hatred show in the process.

Unfortunately, the right of free speech means that sometimes we have to tolerate hearing things we don’t like. Nearly every Muslim-American (with the exception of the few previously mentioned) has proven that they respect that, and I’m confident that they will continue to do so.

But it doesn’t absolve people from being assholes. And with Draw Muhammad Day, the participating artists are proving themselves to be just that.

 

South Park, the “Four Morons” of Revolution Muslim, and CNN’s Epic Fail

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by loonwatch

south-park1

The creators of South Park–Matt Stone and Trey Parker–decided that they would depict the Prophet Muhammad on the 200th episode of their show.  A radical group known as “Revolution Muslim”–based out of New York–issued thinly veiled threats against the South Park creators, hinting that their misdeed would result in their untimely deaths.  CNN picked up the story, and soon the controversy that the South Park creators so desired came to fruition.

Muslim Americans are irate.  But not so much at South Park.  Rather, the anger is directed at two groups: CNN for their poor journalism and Revolution Muslim for their insanity.  Let’s start with CNN: Anderson Cooper covered the topic for over ten minutes and even found time to interview the famous Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Surprisingly, Cooper did not interview a single Muslim American spokesman, thereby giving–whether he intended it or not–the false impression that Revolution Muslim represents a broad spectrum of the Muslim American population, and that the organization speaks for Islam itself.  In reality, the radical fringe group is composed of no more than two to ten members, and one could easily find similar sized extremist groups belonging to other faiths.

The vast majority of Muslim Americans despise Revolution Muslim and their hate-filled ideology.  The New York mosque the group frequented banned them from setting foot inside the premises, forcing them to preach on the street corner. Many Muslim Americans question whether Revolution Muslim are real Muslims, and instead hold them to be agent provocateurs who wish to smear Islam.  Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Revolution Muslim is “an extreme fringe group that has absolutely no credibility within the Muslim community” and that the “wild and irresponsible things” they say has led to “a strong suspicion [in the Muslim American community] that they’re merely a setup to make Muslims and Islam look bad. ”

Joseph Cohen, an Israeli settler and fundamentalist Jew, was the founder of Revolution MuslimJoseph Cohen, a former Israeli settler and ardent Zionist, is the founder of Revolution Muslim 

There’s reason to believe that.  The founder of the group goes by the name of Yousef al-Khattab, but his real name is Joseph Cohen.  He was born and raised in the United States as a Jew, and holds both American and Israeli citizenship.   In the late eighties, Cohen embraced an ultra-orthodox interpretation of Judaism, and began attending a yeshiva (rabbinical school).  In 1998, Cohen hearkened to the Zionist call, and packed up his bags to relocate to the Israeli Occupied Territories where he became an Israeli settler.  As an ardent and extreme Zionist, Joseph Cohen fell in with the Jewish fundamentalist group Shas, an extreme right-wing political party that believes in flouting international law based on their religious beliefs.  Less than three years later, Cohen “converted” to Islam, moved back to the United States, and founded the most radical Islamic group in the country. [1]His underling Younus Muhammad–the other half of the dynamic duo–is similarly a mysterious “convert” to Islam.

This pair of former extremist Zionists [2]–who together form Revolution Muslim–conveniently read off a script that could only be written by an Islamophobe.  For example, one of the two claimed that the Quran commands terrorism, something that no sincere Muslim would ever say (and a claim that is patently false); those are words that an Islamophobe (or extreme Zionist) would agree with, not a Muslim.  Considering the founder’s background in an extreme right-wing and fundamentalist Israeli political party, Muslim Americans have reason to be suspicious.  Revolution Muslim is just too convenient.  Regardless of whether they are Muslim or agent provocateurs, they are simply inorganic wackos that have no community support whatsoever.  Yet, that hasn’t stopped the media frenzy from portraying two “Muslims” as being representative of millions of Muslim Americans.

Cohen (Khattab) is just selling the mainstream media the narrative they want to hear.  According to these preconceived notions, Muslims lose their minds when the Prophet Muhammad is depicted.  The reasoning is simple enough: Muslims reacted in a frenzy to the Danish cartoons, so doesn’t it just make sense that a similar reaction would take place when South Park depicts the Prophet Muhammad?  However, the reality is that South Park has already portrayed an uncensored Muhammad in 2001, in an episode entitled “Super Best Friends”.  In fact, the image of the Prophet Muhammad was not only used in that episode, but appeared in the opening segment of the show for four entire seasons.  What was the Muslim reaction?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened.  No protests, no riots, and no death threats.  The Muslim American community shrugged it off, as they did the recent episode (barring the Revolution “Muslim” group).  Muslim columnist Zahed Amanullah wrote an article for the Guardian entitled “No [Muslim] freak-out over South Park”, saying:

But has there really been any Muslim outrage? The characterisation of Muhammad in a July 2001 episode entitled “Super Best Friends“, where he teams up with Jesus, Moses, and Buddha to defeat evil (even though Buddha “doesn’t really believe in evil”), has been available for viewing online (if not on a spooked Comedy Central) for nine years without censorship, more than enough time to spark another cartoon crisis if Muslims really cared. As should be obvious by now, they don’t.

Somehow “a couple of misfits” from Revolution Muslim are allowed to smear the entire Muslim American community.  The reality is that the vast majority of Muslims in this country barely flinched when they heard of South Park’s intention to portray the Prophet Muhammad.  Anderson Cooper covered Revolution Muslim months ago, and at that time he had concluded that “it’s just a bunch of, you know, four morons standing on the street corner, shouting at the top of their lungs–how many people are really listening?”  That summation of Revolution Muslim, “four morons standing on [a] street corner”, is exactly how Muslim Americans view them as.  Yet flash forward to the recent Cooper report and there is no mention of this fact, and they are instead portrayed as spokesmen of Islam.

To really seal this impression, Anderson Cooper had on his show the vitriolic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ardent Islamophobe.  Unbelievably, she told Cooper that one religion (Islam) is “beyond criticism” nowadays.  What world is Ms. Ali living in?  Today, Islam is the most vilified religion ever, and you can say things against Islam and Muslims on television that you simply could not say against any other religion or religious group.  On Fox News, that’s simply routine, and guests (and oftentimes hosts) can get away with virtually any swipe at Islam.  And on the internet, the level of Islamophobia is astronomical, with Islamophobic websites being amongst the most popular sites on the net, and anti-Islamic comments being hurled at Muslims from sites ranging from YouTube to our very own LoonWatch.  So it is actually the opposite of what Ms. Ali claims: there is no other religion which is criticized more than Islam.  And it’s gone far past criticism but entered into wholesale bigotry, which explains the hypersensitive reaction of some Muslims to this abuse.

In any case, the idea that only Muslims have ever threatened people for portraying their prophet in a certain way is false to begin with.  The indefatigable Glenn Greenwald decimated this argument here, so I don’t need to belabor that point; for example, he mentions a play by the name of Corpus Christiwhich was canceled several times, due to death threats from extremist Christians.  It is clearly not a Muslim only problem, and ought not to be used as a stick to beat Muslims over the head with.  Ms. Ali takes this stick not only to all observant Muslims, but to all of Islam itself.  On Cooper’s show, she claims that the Islamic scripture itself advocates killing those who criticize the religion.  Last I checked, the Islamic scripture is the Quran, and not a single verse in it advocates such a thing.  In fact, we find quite the opposite; the Quran commands believers to say “peace be unto you” to those who insult their religion.  In the Islamic holy book, God describes the righteous:

They are patient, and repel evil with good…When they hear vile ridicule (against their faith), they ignore it and say: “We shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds; peace be unto you!” (Quran, 28:54-55)

That’s what the Islamic scripture says.  As for the hadiths (Prophetic traditions), these are an amorphous body of texts, which Muslims do not hold to be inerrant like the Quran.  Rather, a large number of hadiths are rejected outright as apocryphal in nature, and controversy surrounds many others. [3] Muslim Americans focus on explicit hadiths in which the Prophet Muhammad forgave those who reviled him. [4] For example, a group of disbelievers cursed the Prophet Muhammad, and his wife angrily retaliated in kind.  The Prophet, however, admonished his wife: “Calm down.  There is not gentleness in anything except that it becomes more beautiful, and there is not harshness in anything except that it makes it ugly.  So be calm.”  He then expounded an integral Islamic belief, saying: “God is kind and lenient, and likes that one should be kind and lenient in all matters.” [5]Contemporary Muslims argue that if the Prophet Muhammad forbade even verbal aggression against non-Muslims who insulted him, then physical violence is even more loathsome.

Similarly, if the Prophet Muhammad did not seek vengeance against those who physically assaulted him and even tried to kill him, then how could it be justified against those who merely insulted him?  For example, the Prophet Muhammad was poisoned by a woman who opposed his message, yet he forgave her and sought no retaliation against her.  When the people brought her to him, and asked: “Shall we kill her?”, the Prophet replied emphatically “no.” [6] Contemporary Muslims argue that if the Companions were forbidden to kill the one who tried to physically harm and kill the Prophet Muhammad, then it seems safe to say that it is even more forbidden to punish the one who merely insults him or draws a demeaning cartoon of him. One last example I will give here (although there are many others) is that of Labeed ibn al-Asam, a sorcerer who cursed the Prophet Muhammad, and attempted to harm him through black magic. When his wife asked him why he did not seek retaliation against the sorcerer, the Prophet Muhammad replied “I hate to cause harm to anyone.” (Sahih al-Bukhari) Contemporary Muslims ask: if the Prophet hated to cause harm to anyone, then he would hate for Muslims to kill those who merely drew cartoons of him, a “crime” much less egregious than black magic.

Are there certain texts from the hadiths and classical scholars that say otherwise?  Certainly, and I am not denying that.  But the Islamophobes put a standard to Muslims that they themselves cannot meet.  For example, the vitriolic Catholic crusader Robert Spencer would show such-and-such hadith, and then say “well, it says to kill people who insult the Prophet Muhammad, and so an observant Muslim must do that.”  Yet, his own Bible says to kill those who insult his God (Jesus), commanding the faithful to stone the blasphemous infidels to death:

Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death. (Leviticus, 24:16)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s swipe at Islam can be applied here, with the condescending disclaimer that “not all Christians follow the scripture.”  And what of Anderson Cooper’s comment on his blog: “I have no respect for a prophet or god that needs its followers to defend it by threats and murder.”  Would he now think lowly of the Jewish and Christian God who–according to their most authentic scriptural source–calls for its followers to kill those who insult Him?  Or do we realize that it’s not wise to cherry-pick a passage of a religious text and then vilify an entire creed?  Islamophobes like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Robert Spencer claim that Islam itself and the scriptural sources themselves explain why the riots against the Danish cartoons occurred.  I recently covered the resurgence of Christian witch hunts in Africa; one could make the unsophisticated claim that the primary blame for the witch hunts can be attributed to the Bible and Christianity itself, since the Bible calls for witches to be killed.[7] Yet, experts understand that “poverty, exacerbated by the current world economic crisis, often lay behind the [witch hunt] phenomenon as people sought to find scapegoats for their misfortunes and the illnesses they suffered.”  Christianity was simply the currency in which the people expressed their frustration.  In other words, it is a very superficial understanding to reduce the issue to Biblical verses.

Likewise, there were sociological factors behind the anger that fueled the Danish cartoon riots.  Yet, an unsophisticated understanding of the issue would lead one to believe that the riots were simply the result of an Islamic prohibition on the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.  The reality, however, is that–in spite of an orthodox ban on imagery of the Prophet [8]–the Prophet Muhammad has been depicted in the Islamic world for centuries. British author Dr. Kenan Malik writes:

Over the past 400 years, a number of Islamic, especially Shiite, traditions have accepted the pictorial representation of Muhammed. The Edinburgh University Library in Scotland, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, all contain dozens of Persian, Ottoman and Afghan manuscripts depicting the Prophet. His face can be seen in many mosques too – even in Iran. A 17th-century mural on the Iman Zahdah Chah Zaid Mosque in the Iranian town of Isfahan, for instance, shows a Mohammed whose facial features are clearly visible…

So, if there is no universal prohibition to the depiction of Muhammad, why were Muslims universally appalled by the caricatures? They weren’t. And those that were, were driven by political zeal rather than theological fervour.

European Muslims have long suffered from high levels of unemployment, social alienation, and systemic discrimination–factors that contributed to the riots more than indignation over the pictorial representation of the Prophet Muhammad.  In fact, most of the rioters had not even seen the cartoons, and the caricatures were–in the words of the Islamic scholar Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl–”the straw that broke the camel’s back” (an ethnically appropriate phrase).  In the Muslim majority world, Muslims had long been suffering from what they view as Western “neo-colonialism”, and the Danish cartoons were viewed as salt on the wounds.  The bewilderment of many in the West–”how could they react this way to some cartoons?”–only underscores a profound ignorance of the problems that plague those in the East, many of which the West either causes or exacerbates.

Dr. Malik goes on:

There were demonstrations and riots in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Danish embassies in Damascus, Beirut and Teheran were torched. But, as Jytte Klausen has observed, these protests ‘were not caused by the cartoons, but were part of conflicts in pre-existing hot spots’ such as northern Nigeria, where there exists an effective civil war between Muslim salafists and Christians. The violence surrounding the cartoon conflict, Klausen suggests, has been ‘misreported’ as expressions of spontaneous violence from Muslims ‘confronted with bad pictures’. That, she insists, ‘is absolutely not the case’. Rather ‘these images have been exploited by political groups in the pre-existing conflict over Islam.’

Similarly, the Salman Rushdie affair had political not theological roots:

We have come to accept almost as self-evident the idea that the worldwide controversy was sparked by the blasphemies in The Satanic Verses that all Muslims found deeply offensive. It is not true.

The Satanic Verses was published in September 1988. For the next five months, until the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa on Valentine’s Day 1989, most Muslims ignored the book. The campaign against the novel was largely confined to the Indian subcontinent and to Britain. Aside from the involvement of Saudi Arabia, there was little enthusiasm for a campaign against novel in the Arab world or in Turkey, or among Muslim communities in France or Germany. When the Saudi authorities tried at the end of 1988 to get the novel banned in Muslim countries worldwide, few responded except those with large subcontinental populations, such as South Africa or Malaysia. Even in Iran the book was openly available and was reviewed in many newspapers.

As in the controversy over the Danish cartoons, it was politics, not religion, that transformed The Satanic Verses into a worldwide event of historic proportions.

Malik then explains the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, both countries desperately competing for regional dominance.  Each seeks–with its ultraconservative implementations of the religion–to assert itself as the standard-bearer of “authentic” Islam.  Saudi Arabia had attempted to ban the book, and Iran’s fatwa was an attempt to one up the Saudis.  In the words of Kenan Malik: “The Satanic Verses became a weapon in that conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Riyadh had made the initial running (by calling for a ban on the book). The fatwa was an attempt by Iran to wrestle back the initiative…The controversy over The Satanic Verses was primarily a political, not religious, conflict.”  Unfortunately, many Westerners think it sufficient to hold superficial understandings of such complex issues (whereas others find it expedient to do so).

The elements that led to the Danish cartoon affair simply do not exist in today’s South Park controversy, which explains why the Muslim American community–notwithstanding the “four morons on [a] street corner”–have had such a subdued response.  Interestingly, there has not even been any significant drive to boycott the show, nor any peaceful protests (let alone violent recourse)–which shows how little they care about this “controversy.”  Most Muslim Americans understand that South Park pokes fun at people of every faith, and even if they may find it personally distasteful, Muslim Americans don’t think too much of it. As CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper put it: “[Muslims] are pretty tired of this whole: ‘Let’s insult the Prophet Muhammad thing.’”  They don’t want to dwell on it, and just want the incident to pass. Internally, Muslim Americans are telling each other to “ignore it”, and they are cognizant of the fact that outrage will only publicize the South Park episode more.

By presupposing that the reaction of Muslim Americans would be the same as their coreligionists in parts of Europe and the developing world (some) non-Muslim Westerners have placed all Muslims into one box. According to this “the other” understanding, all Muslims–of every nationality and region of the earth–ought to react similarly. Yet, one clearly understands this not to be the case when comparing Evangelicals in America with those leading witch hunts in Nigeria. The reality is that Muslims in this country have a distinctly American Islam, one which has incorporated freedom of speech into it. Therefore, it is incorrect to simply assume that the reaction of Muslim Americans would be the same as their religious brethren elsewhere. Unlike the Muslim communities in many (but not all) European countries, Muslim Americans are well integrated; unemployment and poverty do not affect them in the same way.  Instead, they tend to be rather well off, and are “overrepresented” in professional fields like medicine and engineering.  The absence of the sociological factors present in the Danish cartoon affair explains the lack of response to the South Park cartoons, and this is so even though the scriptural texts are still the same–again pointing to the fact that the protests had sociological and not theological roots.

Another reason why the South Park cartoons did not cause a Muslim outcry like the Danish cartoons did is that the South Park cartoons were not Islamophobic in nature.  The creators of South Park are equal-opportunity haters and have lampooned every religion, which really softened the blow.  The Danish cartoons, on the other hand, were Islamophobic in nature, and portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a stereotypical Muslim terrorist with a bomb on his head.  (The same publisher had earlier refused to publish cartoons that were deemed offensive to Christians.)  The Danish cartoons were racist and bigoted.  Can one imagine the reaction of socioeconomically depressed African Americans had a mainstream newspaper (like the New York Times) published cartoons portraying blacks as apes (a stereotypical racist image)?  In the seventies or eighties, such a thing would have led to widespread riots. Would people still be bewildered as to how a population could react so violently to a “mere cartoon“?  How is an ape-like representation of a black person any different than a stereotypical hook-nosed Muslim with a bomb on his head?

Freedom of speech is one of the principles of this country, and without it a democracy cannot flourish.  But let’s not forget that racial and religious tolerance is another bedrock of democracy.  It is a true oddity that certain segments of society have chosen that today freedom of speech is the most important issue to them, only because it allows them to channel their racial and religious intolerance.  The neo-conservatives who are today masquerading as the defenders of the first amendment are the same ones who just yesterday were justifying warrantless wiretapping, racial profiling, suspension of habeas corpus, secret prisons, torture, coerced confessions, state-sponsored assassinations (of even U.S. citizens), and on and on…all because these things were directed at Muslims.  In the words of Glenn Greenwald, the South Park controversy has been exploited so that the “majoritarian group [can act] as the profoundly oppressed victim at the hands of the small, marginalized, persecuted group which actually has no power [i.e. Muslim Americans].”  It is selective and unprincipled outrage expressed by unsavory folks who don’t really care about the principles of freedom and tolerance, but are instead using the incident to promote intolerance and demonization of a minority group…something which threatens our democracy far more than “four morons on [a] street corner.”

In conclusion, this is a contrived controversy, and there was no freak-out by Muslim Americans over the South Park cartoons.  Yes, many Muslim Americans were offended, but no more so than pious Christians whose stomachs churn at the South Park episodes mocking their religious icons.  But most Muslim Americans know that this is the cost of living in a free society, and most importantly, they know that it won’t affect what they perceive is the greatness of their prophet.  As one Muslim American told me: “Barking dogs cannot harm the moon, so let them bark.”  Despite the crudeness of this analogy, it adequately depicts the indifference of Muslim Americans to the South Park cartoon.Dr. Hesham Hassaballa, a prominent Muslim spokesman and former board member of CAIR, said:

I  must admit: I was offended. I was really bothered by the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit on Comedy Central’s satirical show “South Park.” …[But] ever since the beginning of his ministry, the Prophet Muhammad has been attacked, maligned, and insulted, including from his own uncle. The Prophet never retaliated against [them]. When he was brutally expelled from the city of Ta’if, two angels offered to crush the city under the mountains that surrounded it. The Prophet refused, hoping that their children may one day believe in God. After conquering Mecca, the Prophet issued a general amnesty to the very same people that brutally and violently opposed him, including the person who mutilated his beloved uncle Hamza after he was killed in battle.

This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims should seek to emulate whenever he is insulted. The Prophet once said, “I was sent to perfect the most noble of character.” He also said, “The best of you are the best in character.” Rather than pray for God to “kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker,” Mr. Chesser should have prayed for God to show Stone and Parker the beauty of the Prophet Muhammad, so they can understand more about the man whom 1.2 billion people around the world revere and honor. It is what the Prophet would have done.

No angry pitchfork, Dr. Hassaballa?  The media thinks to itself: that won’t sell a story and certainly doesn’t fit our preconceived notions of what a stereotypical Muslim is, so let’s forget that you are a respected figure in the community and instead focus on “four morons on [a] street corner” who aren’t even allowed inside their mosque due to how much the Muslim American community dislikes their views. (Phew, that was a long sentence!) Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR-Chicago, writes:

The latest Muhammad cartoon controversy, courtesy of Comedy Central’s South Park, seems somewhat contrived…[Revolution Muslim is] literally 5-10 people who are widely reviled by the mainstream community for their radical and confrontational style including harassing Muslims outside mosques (where they tend to be banned) with outlandishly provocative anti-American rhetoric.

Most suspect the group is fraudulent. Its mysterious leader, born Joseph Cohen, is an American Jew who converted to Islam in 2000 after living in Israel and attending an orthodox rabbinical school there. Whether, true Muslims or agent provocateurs, the result is the same: they are five community outcasts…

South Park’s provocation was mostly met by silence and indifference [by the Muslim American community]. The widespread Muslim attitude went something like this: this is a free country, you go on mocking Jesus and Muhammad, and we will go on keeping them in our prayers. No harm done. Muhammad’s and Jesus’ value to humanity certainly will not dip as a result of your mockery.

The Muslim American community by and large supports freedom of speech, feeling that the right of the cartoonists to lampoon the Prophet exists and that the best thing to do is ignore such insults. Perhaps the lack of reaction by Muslim Americans has disappointed the sensationalist media looking for a story, forcing them to focus on a few misfits.  Amazing how “four morons on [a] street corner” are allowed to become the spokesmen for Islam. The message to Muslim Americans is loud and clear: even if 99.9999% of you behave, that last 0.00001% will be enough to hit you over the head with. The entire community will be defined by its two (or four) village idiots. Muslim Americans can never hope to have their voices heard, unless of course they become Revolution Muslims.

Update:

In retrospect, I fear that I may have used too strong wording when I was discussing Joseph Cohen’s past.  The way my article is written, it seems as if I am saying that he is really a Jew pretending to be a Muslim, and this could be used by some to promote a vast conspiracy, i.e. “it’s the Mossad!”  This was not my intention, and I caution people to stay away from such conspiratorial talk.

The reality is that I do not know Cohen’s true intentions.  I myself have a nagging suspicion that he is a disingenuous attention whore, as is his underling Younus Muhammad.  They have found a way to become famous, and I believe they enjoy the feeling of self-importance and their fifteen minutes of fame.  Accordingly, I believe that the outlandish things they say come from a desire to grab media attention, not from a genuine belief in Islam.  As I said, it is difficult to imagine that a sincere Muslim would claim that the Quran advocates terrorism, etc.  To fulfill this desire for fame, the so-called Revolution Muslims have adopted the role of agent provocateurs, trying to push as many buttons as they possible can.  “Look at us!  Look at us!”

This is the limit of my “conspiracy,” and I do not at all claim that they are still Jews, even though I realize that my wording in the article above was poorly constructed. I am not one to make excuses for my mistakes, and so I say quite simply: I made a mistake.  Yes, it is a possibility that the group was formed to make Muslims look bad, as Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR said.  But the evidence I presented with regard to Cohen’s past can at most make one question intentions, nothing more.  There is no way to know for sure either way; one can only conjecture.

However, the rest of the article still holds: regardless of Revolution Muslim’s sincerity of faith or lack thereof, the point is that they are extreme outliers, completely at odds with the vast majority of Muslim Americans.  The suspicion of the Islamic community is important insofar as it is highlights this very fact, and indicates how far off Cohen and co.’s viewpoints are from the rest of the Muslim Americans.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Yousef al-Khattab, My Reversion to Islam, http://www.scribd.com/doc/2901290/Brother-Yousef-al-Khattabs-Reversion-to-Islam-A-Former-Jew

refer back to article 2. I found less information on the character known as Younus Muhammad, and would welcome reader input confirming his real name and Zionist inclinations prior to his supposed conversion.

refer back to article 3. Although several textual proofs indicate that the Prophet Muhammad forgave those who insulted and abused him, a handful of texts seem to say otherwise.  However, many contemporary Muslims view these texts to be apocryphal, including the stories involving Abu Afak (a poet), Asma bint Marwan (a poetess), and a certain blind man’s slave girl.  As for Kaab ibn al-Ashraf, it is argued that he “was assassinated only because he violated the peace treaty and assisted in the war” (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari) against the fledgling city-state of Medina.  With regard to Ibn Khattal and his two slave girls, it is said that they “all stood convicted of atrocious [war] crimes” (M. Haykal, Hayat Muhammad).

refer back to article 4. Perhaps it would behoove me to compile these some day.

refer back to article 5. Sahih Bukhari, Vol.9, Book 84, # 61

refer back to article 6. Found in Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, amongst others. She was eventually found guilty of the murder of Bishr ibn Al-Bara, and punished accordingly.

refer back to article 7. “Thou shalt not allow a sorceress to live” (Exodus, 22:18), and “sorcerers amongst you must be put to death” (Leviticus, 20:27)

refer back to article 8. The ban was placed to prevent idolization of the Prophet Muhammad, something which early Muslims feared due to the fate of Jesus in the Christian world. However, this ban on pictorial representations carries no worldly punishment if breached, neither in classical or contemporary understandings of Islamic law.